The California Department of Water Resources recently announced that it will award $1 million to each of Sonoma County’s three Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), serving Petaluma Valley, Santa Rosa Plain and Sonoma Valley. The funds will be used to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for each basin, a requirement of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
Proposition 1, approved by California voters in 2014, authorized $100 million in grant funding for groundwater planning and projects across the state under SGMA. On April 4, the State awarded $85.8 million for groundwater plans and projects in California. Each of the three Sonoma County GSAs received $1 million, which was the maximum award possible for planning in a basin.
The GSAs were created in 2017 to sustainably manage groundwater in State-designated medium- and high-priority basins, as required by SGMA. The GSAs are now tasked with creating GSPs in each basin by 2022. The GSPs will include an assessment of available groundwater under current conditions and a detailed 20-year plan to ensure that groundwater is available to meet foreseeable needs for the following 50 years. The GSPs must be goal-oriented and science-based, with strong technical foundations.
Last month, the GSAs hosted community workshops in each of the affected basins to solicit feedback on funding options for the agencies and the creation of the GSPs.
“At a recent workshop, we heard from community members who want to ensure the cost of the GSA is spread fairly to everyone who benefits from a healthy groundwater basin and a healthy environment.” reflected Sonoma County Supervisor and Water Agency Director Lynda Hopkins, who is the Chairwoman of the Santa Rosa Plain GSA. “We know the agencies will need additional resources, beyond the $1 million DWR grant, and we are working to identify an equitable approach.”
The GSPs are expected to include recommendations for groundwater recharge, recycled water and new incentives for water conservation, along with regulating groundwater use. GSAs are intended to ensure that there is a balance in the amount of water that is going out of and coming into groundwater basins.
“The $1 million will help the Sonoma Valley GSA continue the community’s investment in protecting and improving our groundwater basin,” said Sonoma County Supervisor and Sonoma Valley GSA Chairwoman Susan Gorin. “The plan that is funded by this grant will make it possible for farmers, well owners, environmental groups and businesses to continue using clean, abundant freshwater into the future.”
A website, www.sonomacountygroundwater.org includes up-to-date information on SGMA and a place to sign up for more information.